Impact is a word that excites me particularly as I think about how the relates to society. I teach about the church having impact, about the church doing its role of influencing society to become more and more like the Kingdom of God each day. I have often thought of a nail as a good example of this:
If a nail wants to be used effectively – it if wants to fulfill it’s function – it needs to find a hammer to impact it and drive it into some wood. Impact is essential to the functionality of a nail.
But impact is also a one-way street. Getting back to the nail and the hammer, when the hammer impacts a nail, the nail’s only participation is to be hit repeatedly on the head. The nail really has no impact on the hammer (unless of course you believe the warning label that says the head may shatter – see the Mythbusters episode to see how this really works out).
Another word excites me too. It is “engagement.” Engagement is a better word because it is not a one-way street. It is two or more parties working together for a common goal. It is not simply dependent upon one party to do all the driving – both parties participate.
So when it comes to the church what is the best word to use? Do we say that the church needs to have impact and be the driving force behind any change or transformation in society or does the church engage society, working together toward a common goal?
Here are a couple of verses to help us in our thoughts:
Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16 seems to imply that there is some part that we have – we are salt and light – in societal transformation.
Romans 8:19-22 – All creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal who his children are. Creation was subjected to frustration but not by its own choice. The one who subjected it to frustration did so in the hope that it would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom that the children of God will have. We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.
One the other hand, Romans 8:19-22 seems to imply that creation wants to participate in something – it is not just waiting to be used but wants to be part of the solution (but also knowing that it depends upon God to redeem it).
So what about you? Which concept is the best depiction of the church’s role in society? Impact or participation?